Advice for 3Ls pivoting toward public service

(Issue areas, International Law, International Public Interest, Public Service in the private sector, Non-Profits, Public Interest Organizations, Government/ government agencies, employment settings)

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Joined: Fri Jul 03, 2020 9:22 am

Advice for 3Ls pivoting toward public service

Post by istan » Fri Jul 03, 2020 9:49 am

I'm a rising 3L at a top 50 school in the South. When I first started law school, I was vaguely interested in the government/non-profit route, but as I did well I felt shuttled toward working for a firm. This summer I'm working at a large firm in my school's local market in the litigation group. However, with the current moment in America and my personal view of the stresses of firm life (hate billing hours and working for clients who don't match my values), I'm now feeling strongly that I would rather work for the government or a nonprofit when I graduate. It seems like they offer a better work-life balance and the feeling of at least trying to do good is attractive.

I'm not very interested in the criminal side of things, so public defender and prosecutor jobs are not what I'm talking about. I'm drawn to the idea of working for a federal or state agency, local government (like a city attorney's office), or even a semi-permanent position in the judiciary (I know some circuit courts and state courts have staff attorneys). I would also consider a legal aid organization, but my preference would be government.

Does anyone have advice for someone who now wants a public service role but has not really laid a foundation for it in law school? Are there certain classes I should focus on 3L year? Is it common for people to apply to government/non-profit jobs without having summered in that type of role? Are there certain opportunities I should focus on? (I'm aware of the DOJ Honors Program)

For more info to judge my personal prospects, I'm in the top 5% of my class, on law review, and have been hired for a clerkship with a federal district judge in my school's city (so I'd be looking for these jobs post-clerkship). I'm willing to relocate anywhere in the country (I assume many of these jobs are in DC). I will not have student debt (which is one reason why I feel obligated to pursue a public service job). I did work for a nonprofit for one year before law school, so I could try to play that up to show my public service side. I'll also be doing my school's civil rights clinic in the fall. How hard will it be to get the kind of job I'm talking about?

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